Mt. Vernon Register-News

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February 8, 2013

County sued in U.S. District Court

Heartland Alliance filed on behalf of seven immigrants held at the JCJC

A federal lawsuit has been filed in U.S. District Court on behalf of seven immigrants who were allegedly held at the Jefferson County Justice Center under unsanitary conditions and with inadequate health care.

The lawsuit was filed on Wednesday by Heartland Alliance's National Immigrant Justice Center in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois Eastern Division. The lawsuit seeks no monetary judgment, but aims to keep ICE from housing detainees at the facility until problems are addressed.

The lawsuit names Immigration and Customs Enforcement Field Office Director Ricardo Wong, Christopher L. McDaniels, ICE Contracting Officer's Technical Representative, John Doe, ICE Detention Service Manager, Sheriff Roger Mulch, and County Board Chairman Robert White as defendants.

The lawsuit follows ICE's evacuation of dozens of immigrants from the facility in in early December when all but one member of the facility's medical staff had resigned or tendered their resignation, including the jail's only doctor, Dr. Robert Parks. NIJC has since documented reports of MRSA, tuberculosis, respiratory infections and skin funguses which occurred among the jail's ICE populations in the weeks leading up to the resignations and evacuation, according to a Heartland news release. The lawsuit contends that detainee requests for medical treatment were routinely ignored. It also alleges that drinking water was brown and putrid, showers and restrooms were mold-encrusted, jail pods were poorly ventilated, jail uniforms were dirty and torn, and detainees had no outdoor recreation or meaningful access to sunlight.

"There is visible mold, dirt and scum in the shower and restroom areas at JCJC. The facility's showers drain so slowly that dirty, standing water remains in the bathroom area for hours after the showers are used," the lawsuit alleges. "Clothes and garbage are strewn throughout JCDC… detainees are provided with 'cleaning supplies' that consist either merely water or water with an ineffectively small amount of cleaning agents, and the paint on several of the walls at JCJC is chipped and falling off in large patches, JCJC inmates "suffer from dehydration as a result of refraining from drinking the water at the JCJC because of its foul taste and dangerous appearance," the suit further alleges.

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